Thomas Middleton : A Humanist

Authors

STACHUROVÁ Alexandra

Year of publication 2015
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Citation
Description The debate whether Thomas Middleton's plays are moral, amoral or immoral has been puzzling scholars for a long time. Middleton's plays are certainly not easy to handle. They are often criticised for lacking any ethical and spiritual values. Middleton's own views on morality are also disputable. To help to solve this matter, this paper argues that Thomas Middleton is in fact a great humanist. Middleton's tragedies deal mostly with capital crimes, such as murder and rape, and in these cases, Middleton's attitude is clear—capital crimes deserve capital punishment. On the other hand, in his comedies, Middleton introduces a manifold of morally twisted characters. Be it whores, prostitutes and courtesans, their bawds and panders, whoremongers, adulterers, cuckolds and wittols, shrews, fools, criminals, cheaters, greedy people and spendthrifts, an innocent character is hard to find. But, no matter how twisted the characters are, Middleton never lapses to passing a judgement on them. He does not preach, he does not moralise. Middleton's comic characters are free to do what they please, to make mistakes, but they are always given a second chance. Although there is a slight touch of poetic justice, it is never too severe, and the characters are allowed to start anew and prove themselves worthy of the new beginning. For Middleton, a human being is more important than rigid social and religious norms and this makes him one of the greatest humanists of the early modern drama.
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